The Central Pennsylvania Conservancy is closer to preserving a historic farm at the headwaters of LeTort Spring Run.
Ben Mummert, director of land protection and stewardship with Central Pennsylvania Conservancy, said the conservancy negotiated an option to buy roughly 34 acres on the LeTort Spring Run headwaters in 2015. The property includes the watercress farm and adjoining property.
That option ensured the conservancy would be the only entity able to purchase the property as long as it raised the fair market value for the property as established by an appraiser.
Since then, the agency has been working on raising about $415,000, but is about $20,000 short with a deadline to close on the property coming up in March.
“We don’t know where the last $20,000 is going to come from,” Mummert said.
Mummert said half of the funding came from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of State Parks and Forests because it saw the importance of the preservation and restoration project at a statewide level.
The funding, however, came with a requirement to raise half of the needed amount locally. The initial down payment on the property came from the estate of Dr. David Masland, an environmental philanthropist, in 2014. After that, it’s been the local community stepping to the fore.
“We’ve received tons of donations from local conservation organizations, private businesses like Appalachian Running Company and TCO Fly Shop and families,” Mummert said.
The farm, located at a sharp bend in the road on South Spring Garden Street just before its intersection with Bonnybrook Road, has been an agricultural site since settlers starting inhabiting the Cumberland Valley.
“This landscape was used intensively, starting with James LeTort, the very first European settler (in the area). Its clean water and its productive soils drew people here. They established farms and that quickly became industry,” Mummert said.
In 1893, the property became home to an experiment in industrial-scale watercress farming. Prior to that, watercress had been grown in backyard ponds. A family from New Jersey came to Cumberland County to find the ideal conditions of clean, cold water with high levels of calcium and abundant wetlands, which were then flooded to grow watercress
Changes made to the property in attempt to make it more commercially viable have taken their toll on the landscape.
When the property was all wetlands, there was a stream flowing through named Bonny Brook in reference to the beauty of the area. With the expansion of the watercress beds, the stream was pushed back into a ditch against the railroad, roadway and hillside, prompting Mummert to remark that it isn’t beautiful anymore.
“That’s part of what we intend to restore both for ecological function and to improve the site as a park,” he said. “The stream is still in a very unnatural position, which is bad for stream health and is contributing a lot of silt. In the long term, we are looking at a restoration project that realigns the stream.”
The farm was last in production in 2012.
Since it was abandoned, the property has become overgrown with invasive plants that harm wildlife, narrow the nearby LeTort Spring Run Trail and hinder the view from along the trail. There has been some squatting, dumping, littering and vandalism. People have even been known to shoot ducks as they drove by, Mummert said.
Volunteers have been working on controlling the invasive plants and replanting with native plants to restore the ecological integrity of the site, but the conservancy has a much larger vision for the property.
“We really need to develop this site as a trailhead,” Mummert said.
Eventually, the trail may be connected first to Craighead House on Old York Road, and then to the South Middleton Township parks’ trail system.
“Ultimately, the goal is for the public as a park and for the environment as a preserve. Our project is by no means ending once we make the acquisition. In fact, we’re just gaining momentum,” Mummert said.
Volunteers will be needed for trail building, basic maintenance, litter pick up and any number of other tasks.
“We will have a push for volunteers and for donations leading up to ribbon cutting in September when we do public dedication for the property,” Mummert said.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Thursday announced it has issued a $12.6 million civil penalty to Sunoco Pipeline LLC for permit violations related to the construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline project.
As a result of the consent order and agreement, which includes the penalty and a “stringent compliance review,” the DEP has also lifted the order suspending DEP-permitted operations on the pipeline.
The $12.6 million penalty will go to the Clean Water Fund and the Dams and Encroachments Fund. The DEP said the penalty is one of the largest civil penalties collected in a single settlement.
“Throughout the life of this project, DEP has consistently held this operator to the highest standard possible,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in a news release. “A permit suspension is one of the most significant penalties DEP can levy. Our action to suspend the permits associated with this project, and the collection of this penalty, are indicative of the strict oversight that DEP has consistently exercised over this project. (Thursday’s) announcement is by no means the end of DEP’s oversight.
“Since the permit suspension over a month ago, Sunoco has demonstrated that it has taken steps to ensure the company will conduct the remaining pipeline construction activities in accordance with the law and permit conditions, and will be allowed to resume,” McDonnell said. “DEP will be monitoring activities closely to ensure that Sunoco is meeting the terms of this agreement and its permits.”
According to the Associated Press, the company said Thursday it agreed to the deal to avoid litigation and resume construction on a major pipeline project.
“While we strongly disagree with their legal conclusions that our conduct was willful or egregious, we felt it was important to our unit holders and to the commonwealth of Pennsylvania that we move forward rather than engage in continued litigation,” according to a statement released by spokesman Jeff Shields.
The consent agreement, dated Thursday, specifies that Sunoco will withdraw an appeal filed a few days ago of last month’s order.
The DEP had issued a suspension on Jan. 3 after it discovered violations in pipeline work in the state. In that order, the DEP listed the violations, some of which occurred in the Midstate.
The DEP report claimed Sunoco’s contractors did not properly adhere to water safety standards regarding a bridge in Perry County, and there were concerns in Silver Spring Township regarding the affect construction was having on well water.
Part of Sunoco’s response was to remedy those situations.
The DEP said Sunoco has submitted responses and also a revised Operations Plan, which includes measures to ensure that all permit conditions will be followed and to minimize inadvertent chemical returns and water supply incidents.
The DEP said it reviewed all the submitted materials and conducted additional inspections since the suspension, and it believes Sunoco has met its requirements of the Jan. 3 order.
“DEP will continue to monitor and enforce the conditions of the permits, and will take necessary enforcement actions for any future violations,” McDonnell said. “If a resident should witness pollution from the pipeline affecting streams or other waterways, then please alert DEP at 1-800-541-2050.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Robert Weed has been named the new CEO of Project SHARE by the organization’s board of directors.
Weed has been serving as interim CEO since January 2017 for the nonprofit food pantry. He previously served as treasurer for the organization.
“We’re very pleased to have Bob join Project SHARE on a permanent basis,” said Diane Baltaeff, board chair. “His contributions and his leadership over the past year have been invaluable. He became the natural choice as we conducted our search for a CEO.”
Project SHARE is an interfaith cooperative effort, involving local congregations, schools, civic organizations and businesses. Contributions of food, money and volunteerism provide essential basic assistance to more than 1,000 families each month in the region.
“The board, and this community, are looking forward to working with Bob as we continue to implement and execute our strategic goals. The future of Project SHARE is strong and promising as our ability to serve the needs of this community continues to grow,” Baltaeff said.
Weed’s professional career spans more than 35 years with a primary focus on leading teams through organizational change and systems integrations in the banking industry. He managed relationships with business owners and nonprofit organizations, and has experience in retail and commercial lending, mortgage lending and wealth management.
Weed has also served on the boards of Safe Harbour, the New Birth of Freedom Council of Boy Scouts of America and is an active member of the Hampden Township Veterans Recognition Committee.
Weed replaces former Executive Director Elaine Livas, who parted with the organization in January 2017 when she did not accept a role of founder and organizational ambassador following the development of a strategic plan that included an organizational assessment and a leadership reorganization.